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Swedes' Push Harder For Euro Ban On Kids' Ads

On February 13, 2001, the European Union organized in Stockholm for an expert seminar on Children and Young People in the New Media Landscape. One of the main topics in the discussions was Sweden's European initiative for banning television commercials aimed at children. The European Union has a rotating presidency system, where every member country controls the administration for a half-year term. As current leader, Sweden has placed the matter of TV ads on the top of the EU agenda for this term. Though the initiative has some support in the Union, the opposition is also strong, coming mainly from the TV business and producers of children's programmes who must find ways to fund production. Swedish concerns are based on the "protection of minors and human dignity." Swedish Minister for Culture, Marita Ulvskog, told the meeting's participants, that Sweden has banned TV ads aimed at children under 12 years of age. "We base this on the same developmental theories on which the need to protect minors from depictions of violence and pornography is based. Our view is that children, also during the commercial breaks, are different from adults in the sense of being less experienced, less critical and more impressionable. Unlike us adults, children are unable to understand the purpose of the advertising and distinguish between ordinary programmes and adverts," she said. However, Minister Ulvskog also welcomes "self-regulation," but worries that it is not completely effective in protecting children. In a few weeks, the Commission of the European Union will publish an evaluation based on the success of self-regulation in EU member countries. After the meeting, minister Ulvskog said to the press that she would keep the matter high on the EU's agenda. She stressed that several countries have already instituted restrictions on advertisements aimed at children. She added, "We will continue our work that this shall influence the new TV directive." Last week even the non-EU Russian parliament, the Duma, accepted the first draft of a new law that would put some restrictions on TV ads directed at children. According to the new proposal, advertisements would be forbidden in the middle of feature films and during children's and educational programmes. The proposal is surprising in a country not known for progressive social policy. The proposal still has to pass two more stages of parliament and the final result is unpredictable.